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A federal appeals court found that a trial judge inappropriately ruled that President Clinton violated the Privacy Act by releasing the private letters of his sexual harassment accuser Kathleen Willey, but refused to intervene in the lawsuit that spawned the ruling. The ruling concerned a decision by U.S. District Judge Royce Lambert finding that Clinton’s release of the letters criminally violated the act. The appeals court found it inappropriate for Lambert to make “sweeping pronouncements on alleged criminal activity.” The three-member appeals panel declined Clinton’s petition to intervene in the trial, however, because it determined that Lambert’s pronouncement did not present a threat of criminal prosecution to any White House office members. Conservative group Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit, which concerns the Clinton administration’s alleged violation of the Privacy Act by gathering hundreds of FBI background files of former Reagan and Bush appointees, The Associated Press reports. The appeals court’s decision not to intervene in the case leaves this unresolved. It also means that White House counsel Bruce Lindsay, must respond to trial court demands to reveal deliberations that led to the president releasing friendly correspondence from Willey. Clinton issued the letters the day after Willey, a former White House volunteer, accused the president of making an unwelcome sexual advance. Many of Willey’s letters were written after the alleged 1993 incident.

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